"American Idol" celebrated its 500th episode Wednesday as the last three contestants in the 13th season of the competitive singing reality show performed in hopes of making it to next week's finale.
Fox's crown jewel premiered in 2002 and has since launched the careers of stars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, and Jennifer Hudson, among others. It also helped put host Ryan Seacrest in the spotlight.
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To commemorate the 500th episode, Seacrest posted a selfie of himself and judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr. on the official American Idol Twitter account.
Wednesday night's show kicked off with a montage of favorite "American Idol" moments, like Clarkson being crowned season one's winner, the horribly bad William Hung, and a look back at past judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul.
Though Wednesday's episode was celebratory in spirit, it was not without drama. The three finalists — Alex Preston, Jena Irene, and Caleb Johnson — were tasked with performing three songs each. The first was a pick from Jackson, the show's mentor and former judge. The second was judges' pick and the third was selected via vote from each one of the top three contestant's hometowns.
When it came to the performances, show physician Dr. Shaun Nasseri vouched for Johnson, who was reportedly suffering from bronchitis and sinusitis along with a minor vocal-cord hemorrhage, according to USA Today
"He's like a runner who's running with a badly bruised ankle, but I think he's going to do fantastic," Nasseri said of the finalist.
USA Today's Brian Mansfield stated that Johnson earned a B average through all three of his performances, particularly the hometown choice song of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused."
"He feeds off the energy of having the band onstage and singing a familiar song," Mansfield wrote for the newspaper. "The voice hasn't quite come back, but Johnson has some misdirection in mind. He finishes by smashing the mic stand repeatedly against the stage and then just throws the mic to the floor. Urban and Lopez, who have been standing the whole time, go bonkers."
Entertainment Weekly's Jake Perlman wrote that he thought Preston
nailed a version of Rihanna's song "Stay."
"Alex did the impossible by making me forget completely about Rihanna," Perlman wrote. "Unlike some earlier performances, the song's arrangement made it almost unrecognizable, but in the best way possible. As Lopez said, Alex made her forget about everybody else and made it all his."
Perlman also praised Irene for her interpretation of Radiohead's "Creep," which she accompanied on the piano.
"Jena was able to hold her own, once again sitting at the piano," he wrote in his review. "For someone so young, Jena expresses a whole lot of maturity when she is playing the keys as opposed to when she is more active in her performances. It works for a song like this, but it won't work for everything, so she needs to be careful."
The two singers who will advance to next week's finale will be revealed during Thursday's show.
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